ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves lost the 24th overall pick in the first-year player draft when they signed free agent starter Ervin Santana this spring after Kris Medlen got hurt, but it was a move that general manager Frank Wren knew the team had to make.
“You hate to lose a pick, but we ran into a situation where we had to have starting pitching and it served us well (this season),” Wren said.
Santana plugged the rotation hole and it wasn’t as if the Braves were left without a selection near the top of the draft, having received the 32nd overall pick for losing free agent catcher Brian McCann to the New York Yankees.
The Braves used that Thursday night to select Braxton Davidson, a left-handed outfielder from T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, N.C.
The 17-year-old hit .449 as a senior and was named North Carolina player of the year. He had committed to play in college for the North Carolina Tar Heels.
It was the second year in a row and the third in the past five that Atlanta sacrificed a first-round pick by signing a free agent.
The Braves, though, broke their recent pattern by not taking a pitcher with their top pick. They had done so the previous three years and five of the past six.
Atlanta left-hander Mike Minor was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2009. The only other top pick by the team on the present roster is outfielder Jason Heyward, the 14th overall pick in 2007.
Heyward is from suburban Atlanta and so is pitcher Lucas Sims, the Braves’ first-round pick in 2012.
If Atlanta had kept the 24th pick, they could have taken local high school infielder Michael Chavis. He went to the Boston Red Sox with the 26th overall selection.
“We’ve always been pretty good in our backyard,” Wren said before the draft. “There are a number of them high on our board.”
The Braves, though, also went out of Georgia last year and took Oklahoma State right-hander Jason Hursh with the 31st overall pick. He is 4-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A Mississippi.
Atlanta got a 17-year-old pitching prospect with their second-round pick this year. They took Garrett Fulenchek, a 6-foot-4 right-hander from Howe, Texas, with the 62nd overall selection.